Can coping mechanisms ever be positive?

Sofia Chiscop discusses her journey to finding the best coping mechanisms for herself.

Sofia Chiscop
9th November 2020

Right now, more than ever, it feels like the world is spinning.

Discounts may be made for meditation apps, working out for your mind may be promoted more than ever and articles about mental health may be trending… still, it feels simpler to get into autopilot mode, and ignore your feelings.

Except that Scarlett Ohara’s famous quote “I’ll think about it tomorrow” can work for a moment…and another one, until you find yourself stuck in a whirlwind of emotions. Not to sound grim or judgemental because I get it, and I think that we’ve all found ourselves in those moments. The moments when it seems easier to feel numb or do something that may take your mind off for a moment but is no good for you in the long-run.

Image: @guiliajrosa (Instagram)

Indeed, it’s easier to binge-watch Friends, play League of Legends or smoke cigarette after cigarette than it is to acknowledge your emotions. Except that all of these coping mechanisms (no matter how good they may feel) don’t solve our problems. They are just like a band-aid, and we all know that it hurts more when you take it off.

"It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking that if something is not harming you, then it’s good for you."

I know that there are practices that are considered positive coping mechanisms but, let’s be honest, it’s easy to fool yourself into thinking that if something is not harming you, then it’s good for you. Mind-blowing, right? I will call myself out on this one as I used to be a productivity freak. I would never stop doing something productive so that I didn't have time to think about what was bothering me. I’d like to tell you that it works and it was beneficial for my grades, but it left me feeling more out of tune with my emotions than ever. 

"Besides, what makes us feel better doesn't only depend on each individual but also on the situations in which we find ourselves in."

I for one think that the term positive coping mechanism implies that you are still applying a band-aid. That’s why I think that the best escape out of a whirlwind of emotions is awareness. Coping with problems is like a pyramid, the first basis is feeling your emotions, tuning in, and then we can all establish different positive coping mechanisms. Maybe cooking works for you but I, for example, would set my kitchen on fire. Maybe you like to run or journal or sing or paint or watch Disney movies, we all have our thing. Besides, what makes us feel better doesn't only depend on each individual but also on the situations in which we find ourselves in. That being said, maybe one day your positive coping mechanism will be working out only to discover, the following day, that colouring calms you down faster in other situations.

I know I started by stating that binge-watching Friends is a “bad coping mechanism” but, hear me out, I think that bad coping mechanisms only happen when we refuse to acknowledge what we are going through and reach for the first “feel-good” thing. That being said, after you have sat with your emotions, and talked yourself through your tangled thoughts then you can decide what would make you feel good in that situation.

It’s definitely easier said than done, and I’m the first one to mumble “I need a gin” when things don’t go as planned but, in the end, growing up means choosing the delayed gratification rather than the band-aid.

Featured image: Noah Silliman (unsplash)

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